The Calathes Conundrum

By Anthony Sain ( @SainAsylum )


Second year point guard Nick Calathes is causing quite the conundrum these days with his stellar play on defense coming off the bench since the Vince Carter injury. Calathes, who has had a true roller coaster career here in Memphis in his short stint, has been remarkable lately doing things that effect the scoreboard in numerous ways. Whether it’s elite level on the ball defense, breaking up a play in the passing lane, or just being generally disruptive, Calathes has definitely given Coach Dave Joerger a difficult decision to make when veteran Vince Carter ultimately returns. Calathes was booed on his home court after the Bayless trade and then was cheered when he played well (not to mention his new buzzcut) after the Conley injury when he was forced to start. He was awarded NBA Rookie of the Month for February 2014 but was later labeled as the scapegoat when he was found with tamoxifen, a banned substance, in bloodstream. Many still speculate that Calathes would have been the difference in a pivotal game 4 against the Thunder in the playoffs in which then Thunder backup torched the Grizz for 32 points. After his suspension Calathes came back showing signs of rust and was not able to regain his backup point guard spot from veteran Beno Udrih, who has been a vital part to the teams bench production. Since then Calathes has definitely shown his worth coming in off the bench and playing along side Udrih in basically a three guard lineup with Tony Allen at small forward. Calathes has thrived in this lineup and has some Grizz fans in no rush to see Vince Carter back in the rotation.

 

It’s interesting. We all hope that after time off for rest and rehab that Vince Carter will return back to what he was last season with the Mavericks but the addition of Calathes has added such a punch of defense leading to offense that you have to consider the tradeoff. Something that many may not mention or may not even want to acknowledge is that Calathes has even played a lot of minutes as the sole point guard off of the bench instead of fan favorite Udrih. Udrih, while a proven scorer especially in the pick & roll and in the midrange, has struggled on defense and honestly looks to have regressed in the lineups when he plays alongside Calathes. Although Calathes has shined since his emergence, it’s also say that Udrih, the teams leading scorer off of the bench has suffered either indirectly or due to sharing the backup role. Calathes can also cause a possibly bigger issue come this summer when he becomes a free agent due to the fact that with his defensive prowess and playmaking he may force the Grizz to attempt to retain him if he chooses not to go overseas to receive a deal as rumored and assumed or go to another team in the NBA. This would be interesting considering that there were rumblings that Calathes actually would have preferred that the Grizz would have let him out of his contract to take a more lucrative deal overseas. It wouldn’t even be out of the question to imagine the Grizz deciding to go forward next season with Calathes and rumored front office gem rookie Russ Smith as their three point guard rotation with Smith replacing Udrih with his similar instant offense ability but with an advantage in youth, potential, speed, quickness and defense. Calathes’ height and skill set of course also allows him to play minutes at shooting guard or alongside a smaller point guard like Conley, which has been pure gold this year. It’s a complex situation; one that has been a pleasure for Grizz fans and a good, yet perplexing problem for Coach Joerger. Let’s continue to hope that Calathes keeps causing a conundrum that continues throughout Carter’s return and carries us until our championship run is complete. See what I did there?

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